We predict Apple will buy TomTom. The move will be motivated by a desire to own the mapping assets of Tele Atlas and reduce Apple's dependence on Google for map services. A by-product of the acquisition will be securing significant intellectual property rights to turn-by-turn navigation and personal navigation devices, as Apple continues to fight court battles over patent claims.
3D becomes a major theme on mobile devices in 2011 but mobile 3D displays flatter to deceive. Momentum behind 3D in film, TV and games will jump across onto mobile devices. High-end phones and tablets will be able to record and play back 3D content, but the capability proves little more than a gimmick. Early 3D screens that do not need special glasses start to emerge beyond Japan, but consumers are disappointed by the results.
Tablets will fail to live up to the hype. Sales of tablets beyond Apple's iPad will fail to meet over-optimistic expectations. All leading mobile device manufacturers will produce tablets, leading to overstocking by distribution channels and inventory problems. A period of discounting will see margins slip to zero to clear channel excesses. Low-cost Android tablets will irrevocably damage consumer perceptions and dent the market's potential.
Operators will focus on speed and quality of service rather than number of gigabytes when marketing mobile data. To date most operators have sold mobile data subscriptions based on data volume, typically measured in megabytes and gigabytes, or offered on an 'unlimited' basis. This scenario is no longer sustainable as networks are overwhelmed by data traffic. In an effort to move the focus away from volume alone, operators will use speed and quality as differentiators in the next three years.
They will introduce tariffs that offer tiered service levels tied to an allocated volume of data. Ironically, although this will change the way services are sold, data volume will remain important as improved bandwidth and quality of service could result in greater demand.
Operators will pay subsidies based on the data efficiency of a software platform, favouring BlackBerry over iOS and Android. The exponential growth in data traffic is placing enormous strain on network capacity. For many years operators have complained that some devices use considerably more data than others. We predict that in 2011 operators will begin to differentiate their tariffs and device subsidies to prompt users to consider less data-hungry devices and operating systems. The more strain a device places on the network, the less subsidy it will attract.